The emergence of an anonymous group asking for the removal of athletic director Pete Boone caused University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones to publicly decry the motives.
The group, identified as the Forward Rebels, has taken out full-page ads in Mississippi area newspapers to ask for changes to be made within the athletic department, including the removal of Boone.
Jones called the newspaper ads malicious and that the threats against Boone had gotten personal.
The Ole Miss family may not be aware, however, that as a part of this orchestrated campaign, I have received threats, promising that if I do not remove Pete Boone, It is going to get real ugly, and threatening to expand the attacks to other athletics employees, Jones wrote in a statement.
The group, which according to unofficial spokesperson Lee Habeeb added nearly 5,000 members this past week, denied that it ever sent personal threats to Jones. Habeeb said the only reason the group aired the university's laundry in the public was after its private efforts were rebuffed and ignored.
We would also add that we took the newspaper ad route because all other avenues had been tried, Habeeb told The Daily Mississipian. The leaders of Ole Miss assumed that by ignoring Forward Rebels, and the thousands of fans we represent, we would just go away. That was a miscalculation.
The group mounts considerable pressure against Boone as the football program, considered to be the pride and joy of Ole Miss, flounders under Houston Nutt. The team is 1-3 on the season, including a blowout 30-7 loss to Vanderbilt, and some of that blame has been directed at Boone.
A source extremely familiar with Boone, but who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told the IBTimes that Boone is aloof, a constant finger-nail biter, and a person who frequently sits at his desk and works on his own personal projects for much of the day.
Boone, a former CEO of Sunburst Bank, is on his second stint as Ole Miss athletic director. Boone worked as AD from 1995-1998 before being brought back by Chancellor Robert Khayat in 2002. The source says that while Khayat was at Ole Miss, he frequently handled the athletic department's major issues, while Boone was free to play computer games and crunch numbers.
But after Khayat's retirement in 2009, Boone became responsible for all of the athletic department responsibilities and has subsequently failed.
Boone is believed to have the support of Jones and FedEx CEO and Founder Fred Smith. Smith, who is also a big-time booster for Memphis, had protected Boone in the past, according to the source, but might not with all of this current pressure.
Boone has two and a half years left on contract -- annually making $429,000 -- that some boosters would like to see bought out. Habeeb indicated that Boone's inadequacies could be holding the athletic department back in fundraising, as some boosters might be holding back on donations.
The IBTimes' source said that Ole Miss needs to hire another Khayat type personality to manage the athletic department and that many big boosters feel Boone can no longer get the job done.